Daniels appeared at ESSENCE Festival on Saturday to talk all things Empire and his new TV show, Star, about a girl group.
Empire creator Lee Daniels admits that, after his hit show became a phenomenon in its first season, the series experienced some growing pains in Season 2.
“After Season 1 and the massive success of the show, everybody had input. Everybody,” says Daniels, who appeared at ESSENCE Festival yesterday. “And I thought [Empire co-creator Danny Strong] and I were no longer in complete control. It’s not like a movie, where I’m responsible for everything.
And to complicate matters, Daniels adds, “we also had many more episodes because people wanted more, so that meant more work for the actors, more music. And when you dilute it like that, combined with more cooks in the kitchen…I believe that we started losing some street cred. And I think that people were beginning to complain. I’m the face of the show, so I got to take the bullets when other people are in my kitchen, cooking my food!”
But Daniels—who announced the Season 2 DVD release of Empire (arriving Sept. 13) during his appearance at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans—believes that his series ended the season on a high note. “I think that we picked up the ball halfway through Season 2 and our numbers went back up,” he says. “We learned a lot, I learned a lot, because I hadn’t done television before. So I learned a lot about the TV world.”
Daniels says that one Empire highlight of Season 2 involved Emmy-winning actress Leslie Uggams playing Lucious’ bipolar mother, Leah Walker. “That was really beautiful,” he says. “I loved that, because I don’t think that the kids knew who she was. It was really nice to bring that world back so that the kids could see what I grew up with. That was one of the [things] I’m really proud of.”
Also at the ESSENCE Festival, Daniels screened his upcoming Fox series Star—starring Queen Latifah and revolving around a girl group—that will premiere in 2017. “This has absolutely nothing to do with Empire,” he says of his new show. “They are two different worlds completely.”
Of Star, Daniels says, “It’s a far more gritty world.These girls will rob, they’ll steal, they’ll have sex, they’ll do whatever it takes to get to the top. Whereas I based Empire on Dynasty, this is sort of based on Good Times.”
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